KABUL, May 9: Two US Marines and up to 23 militants were killed in a clash in eastern Afghanistan amid an upsurge in violence by suspected Taliban rebels which has claimed more than 100 lives in the past week. The deaths occurred after a group of Marines hunting militants clashed on Sunday with about 25 rebels northwest of the eastern city of Jalalabad, the US military said on Monday.

“Two insurgents were confirmed killed and another 21 suspected dead after a five-hour gun battle in the Laghman province on Sunday,” a US military statement said.

“US Air Force A-10 aircraft engaged the insurgents in the cave and a squad of Marines went afterwards to assess the situation,” the statement added.

“The two Marines were killed while clearing the cave area,” it said. Their names were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Remnants of Taliban regime have launched an increasingly bloody spring offensive against US-led coalition troops and Afghan government forces following the end of the harshest winter in nearly a decade.

With the latest casualties, 25 US soldiers have been killed on active service in Afghanistan this year, including 15 who died in a helicopter crash on April 6 in southern Ghazni province.

In Kabul, three people including a Myanmar engineer working for the UN were killed and six were wounded on Saturday evening in a suspected suicide bombing of an Internet cafe.

Police described it as a “terrorist act” but no one has claimed responsibility. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for an earlier car bomb in Kabul on April 24 which caused no casualties.

Clashes between militants and the US and Afghan forces over the past week have left around 90 people dead. The Taliban regime was toppled after it failed to surrender Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden following the Sept 11 attacks.—AFP

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